Piece of the Pie

By Nicholas Kolakowski  |  Posted 2010-12-23 Print this article Print


Piece of the Pie

In many ways, the i4i case is also emblematic of how fiercely companies-big and small-will fight for a piece of multibillion-dollar markets. This was illustrated again during the summer, when Microsoft and Salesforce.com engaged in a round of tit-for-tat patent-infringement lawsuits.

Microsoft's initial lawsuit against Salesforce, filed in May, alleged that the cloud-computing company had violated nine of its patents. Salesforce fired back in June, insisting that Microsoft had violated five of its own patents. Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff-not exactly a shrinking violet among tech-company CEOs-publicly referred to Microsoft as a collective of "patent trolls" and "alley thugs."

Analysts saw the battle between the two companies as indicative of the growing competition over clients for cloud-based software.

"As you take a look at how the sundry vendors approach the cloud, they love to talk about interoperability and open platforms, but those open platforms come with a lot of inherent walls built around them," Charles King, an analyst with Pund-IT Research, told eWEEK in an Aug. 5 interview. "The fact of the matter is heterogeneity is a fact of life among the enterprise clients these vendors are trying to attract."

In other words, King added, "the dustup between Microsoft and Salesforce may be a portent of things to come, as the vendors work out their battles over who-owns-what and who moves ahead."

Those waiting for an epic battle between Microsoft and Salesforce-perhaps climaxing with a no-holds-barred wrestling match between Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and Benioff in a steel cage-were likely disappointed Aug. 4, when the two companies announced their mutual patent-infringement lawsuits had been settled out of court. "Salesforce.com will receive broad coverage under Microsoft's patent portfolio for its products and services as well as its back-end server infrastructure during the term," read a statement issued by Microsoft. "Also as part of the agreement, Microsoft receives coverage under Salesforce.com's patent portfolio for Microsoft's products and services."

Salesforce also agreed to compensate Microsoft for an undisclosed amount.

Nicholas Kolakowski is a staff editor at eWEEK, covering Microsoft and other companies in the enterprise space, as well as evolving technology such as tablet PCs. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Playboy, WebMD, AARP the Magazine, AutoWeek, Washington City Paper, Trader Monthly, and Private Air. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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